Speed-reading practice: “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see?”

How To Start Teaching Kids Speed-reading

Imagine you would have read one book per day for the last 20 years. How much further would you be today?

Some of the parents I interviewed for my membership site have managed to teach their kids to speed-read at a young age. And I was thinking: How about I teach that my two little kids, too?

Speed-reading is also a superpower Bill Gates would like to have!

When a student at Nebraska State asked Bill Gates and Warren Buffet the superpower question, Gates answered, “Being able to read super fast.” And Buffett echoed him, adding, “I’ve probably wasted ten years reading slowly.”

Today, at the age of 32, I’m learning to speed-read. And I keep wondering how my kids’ lives will be different if I manage to teach them speed-reading already now when they are just five years old.

How can we accelerate learning for our children?

Context

Average readers read at speeds of around 250 words per minute in a non-technical material with a typical comprehension of 60%. The top readers reach above 1,000 wpm with near 85% comprehension.

A 200-page book usually has around 50,000 words.

If you can read 200 wpm (words per minute), it will take you 50,000 / 200 / 60 = 4.17 hours to read it.

If you can read 500 wpm, it will take you 1.67 hours to read.

If you or your child can read 800 wpm, it will take only 1.00 hour to read a book. That’s how some of the kids read even two-three books a day.

And all that with the same or even better comprehension. Impressive, isn’t it?

Why do more people not learn to speed-read?

Easy to learn

In fact, speed-reading is relatively easy to learn, to some level. It’s very straightforward, well researched, and documented. It “only” requires discipline. And that’s most likely the reason why so few can do it.

George Stancliffe teaches children to speed-read for 20 years:

It’s at least ten times harder for an adult to learn speed reading than it is for a child. By the time you finish struggling through the process yourself, you will be so weary that you’ll doubt that children are capable of learning it at all. (George Stancliffe)
Photo by Prasanna Kumar on Unsplash

Four keys to speed-reading

George Stancliffe wrote in his 18-year-old article Teach speed reading to your children even if you can’t speed read yourself there are four primary keys to learning to speed-read:

  • Natural vision — recognize more than one word at once
  • Visualization — picture the story in your mind so well it feels like watching a movie
  • Relax — relax while concentrating and visualizing to get maximum comprehension
  • Daily practice — the importance of discipline cannot be overstated

Training tools

The following tools helped me to get from 300 to 500 wpm (words per minute). My goal is 800 wpm, so still lots of practice ahead.

Disclosure: I don’t receive any reward for promoting these training tools.

1. EyeQ

EyeQ is a product recommended by Ashly in my post Speed-reading Is Not Only For Adults (+video). Although EyeQ doesn’t work on iPhone or iPad, the desktop exercises are of a high quality.

2. Schultz Tables

Our eyes have their most precise vision in the central zone of view. Everything that lies outside this central area is seen as foggy. The broader field of vision we have, the faster you can read. Schultz Tables (iOS app) help me widen this vision.

3. Aceleread

Acceleread is an iOS app that offers a personalized course to learn to speed read. Although not updated for three years, it’s still a perfect product.

4. Outread

Outread (iOS app) helps me to read articles saved in Pocket enhanced by a highlighter which highlights small chunks of text at a time.

For kids?

I like the apps above and use them myself, but they are not suitable for kids. The reading material is just way too dull.

I wanted to use books my kids are most passionate about and have memorized the text already. I tried a few tools in the last few months but wasn’t satisfied with any of them.

Ashly McGee mentioned in my interview she taught her two daughters to speed-read by showing them PowerPoint slides with a word on each slide. And she changed the slides quickly.

So, I’ve decided to create my tool — a straightforward one — that would allow me to experiment with the kids and try some speed-reading practice.

PDF generator

One of our favorite books is Brown Bear. A short one; easy to start with.

Book: Brown Bear

At first, I had to transcribe its text. It was a matter of a few minutes with the help of voice dictation.

Input: Transcribed text of a book Brown Bear.
Input: Transcribed text of the book in a text editor. #plainText

Second, I created a simple Python script to generate a PDF file for each book. This script pulls the text and cuts all the sentences into small pieces — word by word.

A Python script generates the PDF files...
A Python script generates the PDF files…

Finally, a PDF file for each book is generated with one word per page. That’s how speed-reading is taught at first before the visual span increases to two or more words. #nextLevel

Output: A generated PDF file with one word per page.
Output: A generated PDF file with one word per page.

We open the PDF file in a full-screen mode and quickly go from one page (word) to another. The kids already know what’s coming, so it has been quite a lot of fun so far! :-)

Our recent speed-reading session with kids
Our recent speed-reading session with kids

The Brown Bear book has 194 words which make 194 pages in a PDF file. You can create it in MS Word or Pages (on Mac), but it’s cumbersome.

If you are a bit lazy, like me, you can get my script on GitHub and generate your PDFs automatically:

Practice: The hard part!

With my kids, now we know:

  • what to do (knowledge & best practices)
  • and how to do (we have the tools)

What can stop us?

With all the tools and knowledge out there, discipline to practice every day is what makes the 1% of adults and children successful in speed-reading. As George Stancliffe writes:

After teaching many speed reading classes, one trend has become obvious: Those who practice daily are the ones who get good at speed reading while those who neglect it don’t get good at it.

Discipline is the root of all good qualities. We need to be self-disciplined to achieve mastery!

Daniel Pink says:

People fail to achieve mastery not because they are not talented, but because they are not disciplined.

As both George Stancliffe and Daniel Pink suggest, the only thing that can stop us is a lack of discipline and perseverance.

Keep fingers crossed, everyone. 🤞 I’ll keep you posted on our progress!

Btw. Did you know you could read the 1,040 words above in one minute or less at a speed of 1,000 wpm? If it took you longer than one minute, please like and share this article ;-)

👏 If you liked the article, please recommend it to others 👏

More insights & best practices

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Thank you for reading. Here’s to happy and successful parenting! 🍷